129 Noyac Road
Dinner nightly, closed Tuesdays
The charming Boa Thai restaurant is a bit of a hidden gem.
Remotely situated on Noyac Road in North Sea, it occupies the location that previously housed the excellent Wild Thyme. Upon entering, you face a bar with the ubiquitous large flat-screen TV, but that does not interfere with the atmosphere. The decor is simple and pretty, some traditional Thai embroidered and sequined wall hangings and a carved wood serene Buddha adorn the walls of the small dining room to the right. There is a long comfortable banquette on one side, along with some simple wooden tables and chairs.
Service on the night of our visit was warm and welcoming. Alas, we were the only customers there, but this evening was in the wake of Frankenstorm Sandy and the fear of using up gas driving around had gripped all of us. As a matter of fact we felt downright giddy having the nerve to be out on the roads, and compared gas tank levels and service station horror stories over dinner.
We began our meal with chicken satay, spring rolls, roti, tom ka kai, tao huu soup, and a special of the evening, steamed buns with pork belly. The appetizer portions were dainty, which was a good thing because the entrees were quite generous in size.
The chicken satay was very nice, tender pieces of white meat on bamboo skewers with a mild, slightly sweet peanut sauce on them. Served alongside was the traditional garnish of cucumbers and red onion in a sweetened vinegar sauce. The spring rolls were okay, not memorable. They may have been a commercial frozen brand. They were filled with chicken, cabbage, glass noodles, and mushrooms and served with a sweet chili sauce. The roti, a traditional Indian flat bread, were more similar to Chinese scallion pancakes. They were tasty and chewy, a bit oily, served with a mild curry sauce.
The two soups ordered, tom ka kai and tao huu, were excellent. The tom ka kai, a popular coconut milk-based soup with chicken, was rich and slightly sweet and tart. The tao huu was a lighter broth, fragrant with garlic and filled with chopped scallions, silky cubes of tofu, and ground chicken.
The pork belly special was also very good, two steamed buns were filled with chunks of tender-crisp pork belly, arugula, and an odd but appropriate surprise, slices of hard boiled egg which added a nice texture and contrast to the rich meat and squishy bun. This was served with a sauce that tasted like a mixture between Sriracha (hot chili paste) and sweet chili sauce.
For entrees we ordered the green curry with chicken, mussamun curry, pad thai kai, pad thai goong, and tofu stir fry. The green curry was very good, full of red and green peppers, slivers of tender bamboo shoots, sliced zucchini, and tender chicken. Best of all, it was full of Thai basil leaves which gave it a slight anise flavor. The mussamun curry was another winner. This was a generous piece of New York strip or sirloin steak cooked to the tenderness of short ribs, and full of spices like cardamom, turmeric, tamarind, and coriander. The coconut milk-based sauce contained cubes of potatoes and onions and the dish was garnished with peanuts and a drizzle of hot chili oil.
Both versions of pad thai were very good, the pad thai kai full of chicken, fresh crunchy bean sprouts, and perfectly cooked rice noodles, not overdone. The pad thai goong had three jumbo shrimp, cooked just enough. F.Y.I., you can ask for your dishes to be made more spicy which we neglected to do. As in all good Thai restaurants you can also ask for additional condiments to doctor up your meal to your preferred heat level. In this case we got two little jars of condiments, one a delicious chunky sambal, the other some crushed dried chili peppers for maximum five-alarm hot, hot heat. The tofu stir fry was a less rich, somewhat virtuous dish of carrots, broccoli, tofu, cucumbers, and zucchini in a light garlic sauce. All of the curry courses came with steamed jasmine rice.
Prices at Boa Thai are moderate. Appetizers, soups, and salads are $6 to $16, entrees are $18 to $26, and desserts are $3 to $6.
For dessert we tried the green tea ice cream, mascarpone caramel ice cream, roti banana, and sticky rice with mango. The green tea and mascarpone ice creams were served in small scoops in martini glasses topped with whipped cream. Both were delicious. The roti banana was pretty good. Slices of banana were topped with the Indian flat bread, which had a layer of caramelized powdered sugar, giving it a bit of sweet crunch. The best dessert (and my favorite Thai dessert of all time) was the sticky rice with mango. Glutinous rice is cooked with coconut milk and sugar, then served in a warm mound with more warm coconut milk sauce and cool slices of ripe mango. This version was also topped with ground toasted sesame seeds.
Boa Thai is an Asian fusion restaurant and the short menu does offer some Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, but the majority of dishes are Thai. The food is simple and fresh, served in a lovely atmosphere by a warm and friendly staff. It is worth seeking out.